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Radar Rat is one of the rarest editions of Banksy’s Rat prints, showing a rat resting on hind legs, wearing headphones and clutching a tape recorder. The work was originally known as ‘Sonic Rat’ and was first released by Banksy’s print publisher Pictures on Walls (POW) at the artist’s Santa’s Ghetto pop-up shop.
Radar Rat also appeared on a few walls in the streets of London, including around the Chelsea area in 2002. They were later reproduced on canvas in 2004 as well as on the cover of Dirty Funker’s ‘Future’ album in 2008.
Spray-stencilled in signature Banksy-print style, the Radar Rat appears to be listening intently to the world around him, in what seems to be a comment on the ever-increasing presence of surveillance equipment in cities such as London.
The popularity of the rat as a symbol in street art began with the rise of Blek le Rat, a French stencil artist who initiated the urban art movement in France in the '80s. Also known as Xavier Prou, the ‘Father of stencil graffiti art’ began to spray-paint small rats in the streets of Paris and on the banks of the Seine "because rats are the only wild animals living in cities, and only rats will survive when the human race disappears and dies out. I wanted to do a rat invasion. I put thousands all over Paris."
Two decades later, stencilled rats appeared in the United Kingdom and quickly became prominent in the work ofartists like Banksy, who put their own spin on the now-iconic motif. In his book, Banksy acknowledged his debt to Blek le Rat, stating that "Every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only 20 years earlier."
To learn more about Banksy's Rats, see our guide here.
Wall and Piece © Banksy 2005
“I’d been painting rats for three years before someone said ‘that’s clever, it’s an anagram of art’ and I had to pretend I’d known that all along,” Banksy wrote in his book, Wall and Piece.
For Banksy, each rat brings his political and social commentary to life – they present street artists, rebels, the downtrodden masses and anyone who feels rejected by society. On another page from Wall and Piece, the artist wrote:
“Rats exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilisations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”
Love Rat © Banksy 2004
Love Rat originally appeared as a mural on the streets of Liverpool. It was released as a print in 2004, in 150 signed and 600 unsigned editions. At first, it appears that Love Rat was intended to spread love, but the bleeding heart may be a reminder that love can cause pain and suffering, as well as joy. Banksy even promoted this idea, suggesting a Love Rat print is “ideal for a cheating spouse”.
Gangsta Rat (AP Green) © Banksy 2004
Gangsta Rat, wearing a New York Mets baseball cap, a chain necklace and a boom box, is a homage to the urban art and music scene that was fashionable in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. The tag behind it, ‘iPOW’, references Apple’s i-products, but POW stands for Banksy’s older printers, Pictures on Walls. The artwork originally appeared as a mural in London in 2004. Later that same year, Banksy released Gangsta Rat with a red ‘iPOW’ as 150 signed and 350 unsigned prints. In 2015, he re-released the print in six additional colourways, including pink, mint green, green, orange, blue and grey for special Dismaland VIP collectors.
Radar Rat © Banksy 2004